Public Safety : Daylight Robbery

Time and again, Berlin hits the headlines with spectacular crime stories - but police statistics show that serious crime is actually quite rare in the capital. Theft, on the other hand, is going up - so locals and newcomers alike should keep an eye on their bikes and apartments.

Taschendiebe auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt
Take care of Pickpockets in crowdes areas.Foto: picture alliance / dpa

On March 15 at 8:00, a bomb exploded under a car on a busy street in Charlottenburg, a suburb in west Berlin. The driver died instantly in the midst of the city's rush hour. The explosion echoed through the district, and the story took German media outlets by storm. Apparently, gang rivals had placed explosives under the victim's car as revenge for a drug deal gone wrong.

This brutal tale of mafia vengeance was only one of Berlin's recent high-profile crime stories. Some even took place in touristic areas: At the edge of Friedrichshain's party district of RAW-Gelände, pickpockets stabbed Jennifer Weist's boyfriend in the neck after he attempted to defend himself. In February, the lead singer of the eurodance band Sqeezer was murdered in a hostel in Charlottenburg. And a senior was run over and killed during an illegal car race close to the upmarket department store KaDeWe.

In an interview, Berlin mayor Michael Müller argued that none of the city's streets were too dangerous to visit. His remark triggered a storm of protests and kicked off a huge debate regarding Berlin's general security. A recent Forsa poll showed that 40 percent of Berlin's residents feel „less safe“ or „not at all safe.“ But are their worries justified?

11.815 Burglaries in 2015

Last year, Berlin authorities recorded 569.549 offenses - 4.9 percent more than in 2014. But Berlin is not alone. In 2015, Frankfurt, Hanover, Cologne, Dortmund and Leipzig recorded similar crime rates.

Pickpockets that have learned but not mastered the art of stealing are called „Antänzer,“ says Mr. Spielmann. They have no choice but to go about their business more aggressively. Antänzer often look for direct physical contact with their victims to disorient them. This May at the Carnival of Cultures in Berlin, a series of young women pressed charges after being surrounded by men who groped them. Some were robbed. The police arrested four suspects on site. But Antänzers only make up a small proportion of Berlin's pickpocketing scene, says Mr. Spielmann.

A huge amount of burglaries were recorded in Berlin in 2015: 11.815 in total. And most took place in broad daylight. Burglars prefer to work by day because apartments are mostly empty. Most burglars look for cash since very few have access to a network that will buy stolen computers or antiques. Most thieves like to break in on fall or winter afternoons when it's dark outside and residents are still at work. When breaking into single family homes, darkness is even more important. In suburbia, many burglars seek to strike in the late evening.

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